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Emma Yarlett

As a child

I was born and raised in Leicestershire, where I learnt how to kick a ball, climb a tree and (most importantly) hold a pencil. You would find me doodling at the back of the classroom, playing in the forest with my friends or baking a storm in the kitchen … much to my parents' delight. Since I was but a bean I have nurtured a passion for stories, writing and drawing and spent many an hour whiling away time covered in paint, with papier mache in my hair drawing a monster or a mermaid or a horse. Horses were my ultimate favourite, and after a thoughtful dabble at the idea of becoming a vet, I decided it was an illustrator's life for me!

As an adult

As a student I migrated to the sunny tropics of Cornwall to study Illustration at Falmouth University. From day one of the course at Falmouth I decided I would like to become a children’s book illustrator and writer. This meant that I set my eyes upon that goal, and everything I did whilst studying was with that aim in mind. I practised, practised and practised at both writing and illustrating, took self-initiated internships at agents and publishers, entered prizes and wrote to endless art directors and editors. Eventually with several dreadful, terrible, interesting self-written and illustrated children’s books under my belt, in 2011 I finally wrote a half decent one and sent it off to the Macmillan Prize where I was highly commended. I then got on a plane, flew to Bologna Book Fair and met a host of publishers and received my first ever book deals. Then I graduated … and the rest is history.

As an author-illustrator

After graduating from university I decided to leave the warmth and clean air of Cornwall for the smokes of London. However, just prior to actually leaving I met a rather nice tall man and ended up marrying him and sticking around in Falmouth. A few years became several, and here I am still … thoughts of moving to London firmly in the past, and enjoying working from my little studio in the bustling seaside town of Falmouth. I spend my evenings baking extravagant cakes, knitting the world around me, reading anything and everything, playing sports and slowly renovating our house. I spend my days drawing, writing, painting, imagining and doodling up children’s books. I’ve worked on several books purely as an illustrator (Crinkle Crinkle Little Star, Penguinaut, Planet Emerald, The Big Bible Story, Bear’s Big Bottom, My Daddy’s Going Away, Mummy’s Home, Understanding Christianity: The Big Bible Frieze) but my favourite books to work on by far are those that I have both written and illustrated (Sidney, Stella and the Moon, Orion & The Dark, Poppy Pickle, Nibbles the Book Monster, Nibbles the Dinosaur Guide). My favourite parts of writing and illustrating the book are two fold. Firstly I love the creative process of imagining ideas and going on a journey with my stories and characters. You never know where you might end up! My other favourite part is creating the final artwork. I create all of my book artwork by hand. It’s a lengthy process and requires lots of thinking as to how to apply different media to create the art, but it’s a process that I truly love. To me there is nothing quite like sitting at a messy desk, surrounded by paint and pencils and paper – scribbling away whilst listening to an audio book.

Ten things we didn’t know about Emma Yarlett

  1. My favourite colour is Rainbow.
  2. My favourite food is chocolate, followed by ice cream, followed by Jaffa Cakes.
  3. As a youngster I was offered to train professionally as a footballer.
  4. I play the violin and the piano (and the guitar, but very badly).
  5. My whole life I was told by lots of different people that I could never have a career in art / writing… but followed my dreams anyway.
  6. I have a lovely husband who is very tall (6’5”) and called Alex. You may see him (or a smaller / younger version of him) appear in some of my books.
  7. I’m terrified of heights, needles, moths, worms, snakes, eels and slugs.
  8. My several times grandfather was Sir John Bennett, the watchmaker for the Queen and a rather interesting and naughty chap by all accounts.
  9. I’ve had a book published in five continents!
  10. I work in a studio amongst a host of interesting people including a lovely little pooch called Charlie, who likes to steal stray bits of paper from under my desk and run away.
<point11> (sorry couldn’t resist an extra). My family read like a merge of Jane Austen novels… Mr A. Colin Bennett, Jane Bennett, Elizabeth Bennett and finally me (prior to being married!) Emma Jane Bennett. Austentatious indeed! And no wonder Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors – it’s in my blood / name.</point11>

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